Spread across the table, they wink and glisten in the afternoon light: Hand-carved polished wooden bowls, intricate necklaces, fluttery silk scarves, pop-art pins. From among the array, longtime Evanston resident Leslie Sevcik plucks a tiny bronze pear, heavy-weighted and silky-bottomed and places it in the palm of my hand.
“Laura Baring-Gould made these—aren’t they lovely?” says Sevcik. “I remember the day a young child asked Baring-Gould about these, how they were sculpted, cast, and finished. The child was so intrigued. And she was so patient in explaining the process to that child. In the end, she gave that little boy one of them.”
Sevcik puts down the pear and picks up an inlaid wooden bowl carved by Peter Petrochko. “Unbelievably, he had a tree fall on his property in a sequence of storms, destroying his house,” says Sevick. “But his artwork survived and he’ll be at the show this year.”
And so it goes. One after another, each of the objects on Sevcik’s table brings with it a story, a memory, or meaningful anecdote about the artist who wrought it.
“These are not just pieces of art or fine craft,” she says. “They’re extensions of the artists who made them, people I really like and care about. This is really a collection of friends, not just artwork.”
With her deeply felt appreciation for artists, Sevcik’s role as co-chair and spokesperson for the 34th Annual American Craft Exposition (ACE), happening at the Chicago Botanic Garden this September 21-23, is a natural fit.
But, she’s quick to point out, accessibility—to the artists, their work, and the causes ACE benefits—is not reserved for the people who run the event, it’s for everyone, at every level.
“There is nothing more ‘of the people’ than the family of fine craft,” says Sevcik. “Even the word ‘craft’ is a term that embraces many types of products made and is also a verb meaning to hand make something. The artists that participate in this show are so genuine and available to the people visiting the exposition, even though they are the top craftspeople in their respective disciplines. I find it magical when an expert artist meets an admiring customer who loves the work.”
Accessibility notwithstanding, ACE—the main fundraising event of the auxiliary board of NorthShore University HealthSystem—is a high-end show, one of the top craft shows in America, on par with the Smithsonian Museum Show in Washington, D.C., the Philadelphia Museum Craft show in Philadelphia and the Baltimore American Craft Council Show.
ACE is a juried show, featuring 150 artists selected by a panel of experts from a field of more than 400 applicants.
There are 12 categories of art and craft represented: jewelry, ceramics, metal, handcrafted clothing and accessories, glass, furniture, fiber decorative, leather, wood, paper, mixed media, and basketry. Artists are drawn from throughout the United States.
Of the categories represented, this year, jewelry is the most competitive, says Sevcik.
“That’s why you will see so many high-end jewelers at ACE. Their craftsmanship is the most detailed. They use the most divine materials and the prices may reflect that.”
Another of the most exciting categories in the show is that of the “emerging artist.”
“Our group sends show directors, chairs, and vice chairs to most of the major shows each year to scour the country for top applicants and new artists,” says Sevcik. This year ACE emerging artists include Eric Beachamp, who uses a process of electrification to create lightning-strike type imagery on the surface of wooden artworks. Seung Jeon Paik draws from the laws of physics in his fine jewelry “Galaxies,” using granulation techniques to create tiny representations of galaxies in gold, sterling silver, and gems. And Scott Zuziak hand carves floral motifs in tabletop wood pieces.
Equally important to the presentation of art and artisans at ACE, is the cause supported by the show. Funds raised at this year’s ACE will support important mental health initiatives at NorthShore University HealthSystem through the creation of a Psychiatric Urgent Care Program.
As in the past, the 2018 ACE kicks off with a Benefit Preview Party. This year’s event will be on Thursday, September 20 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets for the preview party are $200 in advance or $225 at the door and include a three-day pass to the show, plus complimentary parking on Thursday evening and discounted parking for the remainder of the show.
“The Preview Party is great fun because attendees are the first to see the artists’ work, while sipping a cocktail of choice and dining on fabulous catered cuisine,” says Sevcik. “It’s also exciting because the judges unveil which one of the artists has been selected to have their artwork purchased for display in one of the NorthShore University Health System hospitals. One artist is selected for this honor each year.”
For more information about this year’s 34th Annual American Craft Exposition, call 224-364-7270 or visit americancraftexpo.org.